Fulton County supervisors give nod on eminent domain

Supervisors give nod on eminent domain

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday approves a resolution related to eiment domain Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 13-6 to authorize the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency to initiate an eminent domain procedure to secure two town of Johnstown parcels owned by Robert Bowe.

Broker Sharon Baisley of the HBE Group in Dolgeville, who represents Bowe, has said he plans to fight the taking of his land.

The IDA was due to take action this morning on the matter.

Fulton County desires Bowe’s land as part of the county’s Hales Mills Development Area project. The IDA will be reimbursed by the county for all costs incurred pursuing the action. The Fulton County Board of Supervisors will provide the IDA with advance payment to pursue an eastern parcel once final valuation is determined. The town of Johnstown will provide the IDA with advance payment to purchase the western parcel once final valuation is determined.

Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery, told the board he “strongly opposed” granting the IDA authorization for eminent domain.

“I know a lot of work has been put into it,” Callery said of the project.

Bowe owns a 69-acre parcel on the west side of Hales Mills Road Extension and an 89.5-acre parcel on the road’s east side. Officials have said the 69-acre parcel is ideal for creation of a town park, while the 89.5-acre parcel is ideal for residential housing, commercial and retail development.

Bowe last summer offered his property for sale, desiring $5,000 per acre. Baisley said the county is offering only $3,000 per acre. At about 159 total acres for sale, based on the broker’s assessment, Bowe wants $795,000 for his property and the county wants to obtain it for $477,000. That would be a $318,000 disparity.

“Private property is critically important,” said Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young, also opposed.

Young said the Fulton County Board of Supervisors is setting a “bad precedent.”

“This is not for a specific emergency,” added Bleecker Supervisor David Howard, also opposed,

During the public speaking portion of the meeting, Karen Fagan of the town of Johnstown expressed her opposition to the county acquiring Bowe’s land by eminent domain.

“I’m not sure where I see the checks and balances here,” Fagan said. “Eminent domain shouldn’t be used to take your land from a farmer to complete your project.”

Fagan, who became emotional, said her family is longtime farmers in this area, asking where “agriculture” is being considered in this issue.

“It shouldn’t just be rolled over by people who know the system,” she said.

The 490-acre, proposed Hales Mills Development Area includes four parcels of land owned by two property owners, with Bowe owning two of the county’s desired parcels.

Eminent domain is the right of a government to take private property for public use. That right legally is by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction. IDAs are authorized to use eminent domain.

Fulton County’s new Economic Development Strategy pertains to development opportunities. The strategy includes creation of three primary development areas, including the Hales Mills one in the town of Johnstown. That one will address the public need of creating new housing, providing public recreational facilities and generating new property and sales tax revenue to stabilize property tax rates for county residents.

County officials estimate the Hales Mills Development Area — when completed — will include about 120 residential lots, mixed-use developments, townhouses and a two-mile walking trail.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.